Sight Reading

How to Practice Sight Reading in 15-Minutes-a-Day

How to Practice Sight Reading in 15-Minutes-a-Day

When you are first learning the music notes for piano or any other musical instrument you will want to practice reading lots of easy music to get your note reading reflexes sharp.

In the early stages of learning how to read music or how to sight read music the act of identifying notes is the first hurdle to cross. Once you know the notes of the treble and bass clef I highly recommend you get a great book for sight reading. There are a couple of criteria that I would recommend you look for in a sight reading book, including:

Goal Setting vs. New Year's Resolution

Never Too Old**** Special New Year's Discount Coupon at the end of this post ****

Hello One Minute Music Lesson community,

A new year often triggers a shift in our mind to re-evaluate our life and the current path that we are on. Often this is done in the form of making new year's resolutions.

I make a new year's resolution most years, but often fail at them because I don't assign goals that are specific enough to achieve the resolution. This year I want to change that.

I want to get more specific about the goals I set for the One Minute Music Lesson and other areas of my life.

Before I dive into the goals for this website I want to share something personal with you. Lately I have experienced some changes in my health. Recently I found out, after having a lot of pain, that I have a problem with a disc in my back. Currently I am feeling a lot better but it has been a real struggle for the last month.

My new diagnosis has made me realize that I must do something to help with my recovery. One of those things is to lose a few pounds. If you have ever struggled with weight loss you know how hard that can be, especially when you cannot exercise the way you need to.

I am going to achieve my weight loss goal by tracking my daily calorie intake with a fitness tool called MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal is a very successful fitness website that offers a free app to help people gain control of there fitness by using several key elements from the psychology of goal setting.

By combining the ability to track personal goals and progress daily, as well as provide support from a large community of like minded people in similar situations, MyFitnessPal helps people to set and achieve laser-like specific goals.

My goal for the One Minute Music Lesson this year is to provide a very similar proposition as MyFitnessPal but for musicians. I plan to begin teaching some courses via online webinars to connect with you personally and provide you with more concrete goals and the best tools to achieve them through measurable assignments.

5 Psychological Triggers for Goal Setting

Before I tell you about the first upcoming webinar let's dive a little deeper into some of the ways to use psychological triggers to set better goals and reach them more successfully.

To achieve a goal you will need 5 key ingredients to set your self up for success: Inspiration, Daily Tracking, Progress Reporting, Emotional Support and Community Engagement.

1. Inspiration is necessary for the initial spark that makes you want to set a goal. My back injury was the inspiration that lead me to take action to lose weight.

2. By using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone I am able to easily track my calories and exercise daily. This daily tracking helps me to be more accountable to myself and to break the larger goal into small manageable pieces. Also by using the daily tracking method I can easily project into the future what my weight will be based on the data I currently.

3. Progress reports can provide a similar effect as daily tracking. By checking my weight once a week I can gauge how effectively I am reaching my goal. This steady progress feels good both physically and mentally. In the MyFitnessPal app you are given a progress bar that moves every time you check-in with your current weight.

4. Emotional support is one of the most important ingredients for success because without it you can easily revert back to old habits that keep you from reaching your goal. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife who supports me in my life and health goals and that has empowered me to do things that I never thought were possible.

5. Community engagement is similar to emotional support, but has the unique difference of placing your into context with your peers. By being an active participate in a community of like-minded people you can compare your own success to others and learn how others got over the hurdles that your currently face. The MyFitnessPal community is one of the best online and really is the "magic" that has helped thousands of people lose weight and regain their health with this tool.

Using These Psychological Triggers to Become a Better Musician

In my next free webinar I am going to be using all 5 of these triggers to help you get better at reading music. I will be announcing this webinar through my email newsletter, so if you haven't already signed up, click here to subscribe to the free newsletter.

During this webinar I will be introducing a new interactive software tool that I will be using throughout this year that is designed especially to improve sight reading skills for pianists but can also be used by guitarists, bassists and drummers.

Take A Daily Action Right Now

I am a strong believer in the power of the motivational sign. I have written about it before in this post. So, before the first webinar I want you to download this motivational quote from C.S. Lewis as a PDF file and print it out. Hang it somewhere you will see it everyday. Click here to download the file.

Your New Year's Discount Code

Also if one of your goals this year is to learn to read music better and you have been on the fence about getting my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days" I am having a 3 day sale for 25% off the current price.

To receive the discount use the coupon code 2014GOALS at checkout. You can learn more about the book here.

That's it for this post and stay tuned for more info on the upcoming webinar. Thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


  Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon's goal is to teach you musicianship skills by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.

Review of, An Online Program for Practicing Sight Reading

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Having a great sight reading program is a wonderful tool for the student musician. There are a lot of poorly designed programs available and finding the right one for you can be tough.

In my last post I talked about my top 4 picks for the best sight reading software programs available.

In this post I want to dive deeper into my number 1 pick with a review of

What To Look For In A Sight Reading Software Program

I look for four things when I evaluate sight reading software. These four things are:

  • The ability to print the examples
  • The variety of examples
  • The types of analytical data the program gives you and ...
  • The overall usability of the program.

How Does It Measure Up

Here are my ratings of these four categories for


BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10 is an online tool that uses traditionally composed musical examples from real composers, as opposed to computer generated musical examples.

I think this is a huge plus for the program because computer generated examples are almost never musical. They generally feel square and often lack the emotional character that traditionally composed music has.

The examples on are musical and well written for the purpose of sight reading.

Category 1 - Printing

My first and most important category is printing. If a program cannot print its examples I do not personally find it to be very useful for practicing sight reading. does not natively support printing but you can print directly from the internet browser. The printout from the program looks the best in landscape orientation.

What this means for you is that you can print, but the page may look a little bit funky, but it is still completely readable and not a pain to print out.

Here is an example of an actual printout (the print quality is much better than my photo):

Category 2 - Variety is designed specifically for piano players. This does not mean you must play piano to use it, but the examples are always for treble and bass clef together and often require that you play both clefs simultaneously to hear the melody.

With that said, it is an excellent tool for piano and keyboard players. The program is designed for three progressively difficult skill levels.

  • Level 1 is for beginning sight reading: It has hands playing separately and requires both clefs to play the melody.
  • Level 2 is a bit harder: Both hands play together and the left hand is usually easier.
  • Level 3 is for intermediate sight readers: The examples are bit a longer and have more challenging key signatures.

The program has as much variety as you want to pay for. You can choose the level of variety that suits your needs the best. The current monthly plans are:

  • 35 sight reading examples for $19 a month
  • 100 sight reading examples for $29 a month
  • 300 sight reading examples for $79 a month

For most people the 35 example plan would be sufficient to provide you will one example to sight-read per day.

Category 3 - Analytics

The analytics for this program are for tracking completion purposes only. The program will track what day and time you read an example and which example and skill level it was.

Because the program is not interactive it will not track how well you played it. I would not be too concerned about the lack of this feature. There are very few programs that can accurately "listen" as you play and tell if you are playing it correctly. Often the computer algorithms used to "listen" are poorly executed and give bad feedback to students.

Category 4 - Usability

I would rate this program as very usable. It has a simple interface that does exactly what you want it to do. provides you with:

  • An example to sight-read at the appropriate skill level.
  • It allows you to listen to the example, often with a real audio recording of the example.
  • It contains dynamics and expression markings in the music which many programs lack.
  • Since it is designed for pianist it includes fingering written in many of the examples.

Give It A Try For Free

Visit and sign up for the 7 day free trail to get a feel for the program. This test drive is fully functional and gives you a good idea of how the program will work with your learning and practicing style.

That's it for my review. Let me know in the comments below what think about the program and how you would incorporate it into your sight reading practice regimen. To get more tips on sight reading visit the sight reading forum page to ask your questions and get feedback from the One Minute Music Lesson community.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


  Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.

The 4 Best Programs For Interactive Sight Reading Practice Sheet Music

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Using interactive sight reading software is a great way to practice sight reading daily. By using a program that generates a steady stream of new sight reading material you can easily and efficiently practice this skill. Also you can avoid having to collecting books for the purpose of sight reading sheet music.

Before I list the programs let's start with a comparison of both traditional and interactive sight reading practice so you can see how using a software approach can help you grow as a musician.

Interactive Sight Reading vs Traditional Sight Reading

To sight read you will need music to read that is brand new to you. In the past you needed a library of materials to read from so you were looking at fresh materials each time you practiced. This required a lot of energy, time and money to collect the music not to mention the need to stay motivated to prevent boredom and challenge yourself to grow as a musician.

Interactive sheet music programs solve all these problems allowing you to have an unlimited supply of new musical examples. This can save you tons of hassle and set you up for success with your sight reading progress using the various skills you have learned about sight reading throughout my sight reading series.

And added feature of using interactive software is that you can track the growth of your sight reading skills accurately, efficiently and automatically with detailed statistics.

Common Features You Need In A Sight Reading Program

You must be able to print.

This is a vital feature for any sight reading program. If you can't print the excerpts you will severely limit how useful the program will be. I recommend all my students begin sight reading by marking their music with a pencil and using other sheet music marking techniques.

If you can't print from the program you could do a screen capture with programs like Camtasia or Snapz Pro. However this additional step will hinder your progress over time.

You need musical variety.

You want the program to be able to provide a huge number of examples. Often this will be done by using computer music algorithms that can generate musical examples. Some programs that use this feature are good and some are just plain awful.

Read reviews from users online before relying on the quality of the auto-generated music features of some programs. Alternately some programs use traditionally composed music which is much better in my opinion. If you go with a program that uses traditionally composed music be sure it offers enough variety in styles and difficultly levels to keep you engaged.

Analytics will  help you track your progress.

Tracking your progress is the key to achieving your goal of becoming better at sight reading. Look for programs that track how often you use them and grade your performance based on how accurate your reading skills are.

You want a program with good usability.

Ultimately a program that is easy to use will be the best option even if it is missing some of the other features. If the program is hard to use you will not use it.

The 4 Best Interactive Sight Reading Programs

Based on the criteria above here are my recommendations for interactive sight reading software programs. These are my top 4 picks in order starting with #4 and rating each in the categories of Printing, Variety, Analytics and Usability. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. I have also graded each with a percentage score by dividing the points by 40.

#4 - Ear Master 6

RATING: 57%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 0 | Variety 5 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

Ear Master Pro 6 is the latest version of the acclaimed computer based ear training program. I am putting this software in this list because it has some great features for learning to read rhythms. Also it incorporates rhythm reading and other musicianship skills into one killer program that is a user friendly tool that is useful for every level of musician.

Ear Master has some great features the other programs don't have. It has a piano and guitar input interface. Also this program does a great job of tracking your progress with detailed reports.

The only reason the rating for this program is low is because it is not meant to be for sight reading although it can be a very powerful tool for learning to read rhythm. You can read my review of the previous version of Ear Master 5 here. I will be writing an in depth review of Ear Master 6 soon.

Try a 7 day free trial of Ear Master Pro 6

#3 -

RATING: 73%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 9 | Analytics 0 | Usability 9 is also an online tool with auto-generated musical examples. It offers a lot of customization features which make it very usable. Also you can print directly from the website to a nicely formated page. This program natively supports most single staff instruments. Also it has a good listening feature to compare your work to the computer playback.

Try a free demo of

#2 -

RATING: 82%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10 is another online tool that is relatively new to me. This program has traditionally composed musical examples from real composers which is a huge plus to me.

Printing is only supported through the web browser but the print out looks nice in landscape mode. There is a good variety of melodies, with left and right hand parts. You pay for the amount of sight reading you want per month, but the cheapest plan has enough for one reading per day. It tracks what you have played, but not details about it.

This program is very usable, especially for pianist and piano teachers. I like its interface and it uses real recordings of the playback! That is nearly impossible to find in any other program.

Try a 7 day free trial of

#1 - PianoMarvel

RATING: 100%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 10 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

(I will be hosting a free webinar on Sunday, February 9th 2014 about PianoMarvel software. Click Here to Learn more.)

PianoMarvel is hands down the best program for interactive music education, especially in the area of sight reading. The program is designed to teach you sight reading through 36 graded levels of music reading from total beginner to advanced musician. The software uses an interactive interface that connects to a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI device such as a MIDI guitar.

This program also has several incredible features including a built-in library of over 1200 pieces of music that also printable directly from the software. Also PianoMarvel has a feature that grades your performance to let you know how you did on each exercise and then automatically tracks your progress.

I highly encourage you to try PianoMarvel free for 30 days using the link below. Also as a reader of the One Minute Music Lesson you will receive a 20% discount by using the discount code OneMinute at checkout if you decide to purchase a monthly subscription.

Try a 30 free trial of PianoMarvel

Incorporating Sight Reading In To Your Practice Schedule

These programs are great for incorporating sight reading in to your practice routine. Especially the ones with good printing options. You can print your examples ahead of time so that you can mark your scores and you can use to programs to track your progress and listen to the excerpts.

However if you don't know how to properly read notes and rhythms none of these will teach you how to read music. For that I recommend by latest e-book "How To Read Music In 30 Days Easily" to get you started using counting systems and understanding music theory so you can sight read better.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of these programs or if you have any other programs you like to use in the comments below.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teaching you musicianship by using highly-targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and and composition.

3 Mistakes You Are Making When You Sight Read Sheet Music

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Continuing with my series of posts on improving your sight reading ability, today I wanted to tell you about 3 of the most common mistakes students make when learning how to sight read and how you can correct them.

These 3 mistakes are easy to fix and will improve your sight reading dramatically.

Also, stay tuned all the way to the end of the post because I'm issuing you a 3-day challenge.

Mistake #1 - You Do Not Prepare Before You Sight Read.

Preparing yourself and your music before you play a single note is the most common mistake in student musicians. Sight reading requires a lot of mental processes to occur simultaneously. When you couple this with the fact that many beginning, and even intermediate musicians, get very tense when they sight read creating a recipe for sight reading disaster.

To eliminate is problem of incorrect preparation you need to get into the proper state of mind and give yourself every advantage possible from the very start of your sight reading practice time.

To get in the "zone" to sight read you must understand that sight reading is not the same as playing music, which I would classify as performance. Nor is it the same as practicing a piece that you will eventually perform. Sight reading is simply the act of sharpening your music reading reflexes to be able to play the music at the first reading. This is an ongoing skill you will develop and you want to stay focused on strategically progressing bit-by-bit.

When you are ready to sit down and practice sight reading you should dedicate about 15 minutes to playing through your prepared score. By preparing your sheet music ahead of time you are eliminating the obstacles that are preventing you from getting better at sight reading. If you don't already know how to prepare your music read my article on the 5 Steps To Sight Reading Music.

Mistake #2 - You Are Reading Note-by-Note.

In the beginning stages of sight reading you will most likely be reading note-by-note. This will prevent you from being able to read ahead, which is critical to improving your sight reading ability. Once you have memorized your note locations on the treble and bass clefs, or alto if you play the viola, you want to begin to read by interval.

Let's look at a short example of how to read sheet music by interval:

As you read through the example you want to read from note-to-note by the interval, not the note name.

So for example this piece is in D Major. The first note is A. The next note is up 4 notes of the scale, then down 8, then up 3, and then up 2 and so forth.

I have marked the whole score with the generic interval distances. As you read through the piece this way by interval, you are reading the musical contour. Contour reading allows you to see the music in much larger chunks that reading note-by-note.

Reading by interval requires some knowledge of basic music theory. This sight reading technique requires two pieces of information: You need to understand what scale or key the music is in and understand generic intervals.

Additionally, once you understand these two concepts thoroughly you will see that most music will appear on the staff within the key, meaning there is no need to use any accidentals within the music. When this concept sinks in you will be able to read by interval very easily. Further more, once this sight reading technique is combined with the knowledge of chromatic scale degrees you can suddenly see the hidden structure in the sheet music that has been there the entire time. This is a concept I teach throughly in my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days".

Mistake #3 - You Are Focused on Perfection, Not Progress.

Improving your sight reading ability will take time. There is no magic pill or trick that will teach you the necessary concepts of basic music theory that are required to sight read sheet music fluently.

With this in mind you must set realistic expectations for each practice session you dedicate to sight reading and reward yourself for following through with your practice plans.

Most importantly remember that if you want to get better you will need to break the task into small manageable bits to make progress. If you are new to sight reading start by reading my article "How to Practice Sight Reading in 15 Minutes A Day in Just 4 Steps."

Take the 3 Day Sight Reading Challenge

It has been proven that one of the most effective ways reach any goal is to make a commitment publicly. I want to challenge you to visit the Sight Reading forum right now and commit to sight reading for three days in a row.

To make your commitment simply fill out the reply form on the forum page and tell me your name, your instrument, why you want to get better at sight reading and what you will reward yourself with after you complete your 3 day challenge.

This simple public statement will be the first step you will take to sharpening your musical focus on progress, and curing the crippling disease of perfectionism. Click here to make your commitment now.

I will continue blogging about how to improve your sight reading in the coming weeks. I hope to see you in the forums and help you in any way I can to improve your musicianship skills.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted, "concept" lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition so you can become the total musician you want to be.

How to Practice Sight Reading in 15 Minutes A Day in Just 4 Steps

[Edit from Leon: I've found an even better tool for sight reading. Check it out here.]

How to Practice Sight Reading

When you are first learning the music notes for piano or any other musical instrument you will want to practice reading lots of easy music to get your note reading reflexes sharp.

In the early stages of learning how to read music or how to sight read music the act of identify notes is the first hurdle to cross. Once you know the notes of the treble and bass clef I highly recommend you get a great book for sight reading. There are a couple of criteria that I would recommend you look for in a sight reading book, including:

  • Get a book with many easy examples.
  • Get a book that progresses in difficulty from very easy to more complicated material.
  • Get a book with both treble and bass clef, even if you just need to learn only one clef. A well-rounded musician can read all musical clefs (even the alto and tenor clefs).
  • Get a book with a teaching component, especially rhythm since it is the one of the most difficult hurdles you will need to cross in learning to sight read properly.
  • Get a book with an easy to read layout and high quality construction. You want the music to be a large enough size to read at a comfortable distance of about 2-3 feet. Also spiral bound books lay flat and are less prone to closing or falling of music stands or the piano's music desk.

With all of these criteria in mind my #1 recommended book for sight reading purposes is Robert W. Ottman's book "Music for Sight Singing".

Now you may be asking yourself "what is sight singing?" and how could this possibly relate to my piano music reading skills or my guitar playing?

Sight singing is simply the act of reading sheet music without any instrumental help. This skill teaches you how to look at a piece of music and sing it based only on your knowledge of music theory and your aural memory of musical intervals. This skill is a beyond our needs at this point, but down the road I highly recommend you learn how to sight sing to improve your musicianship overall.

For our purposes this book is incredible because of the sheer volume of short, easy to read exercises. The "Music for Sight Singing" book is a standard college textbook for ear training courses and musicianship skills classes. It is based on the principles of teaching how to read music through thousands of short excerpts from real musical literature. Also it is available on Amazon for only $3.00 used, which is a steal for a book that retails for $86.00 at most book stores.

Let's take a look at some sample excerpts for our 15 minutes a day exercise.

15-minutes a day Sight Reading Exercise

Here are the four steps for our sight reading exercise. Don't skip any of them. When you are practicing any skill for music, remember that quality is much more important and quantity. Slow and highly focused practice will get you faster results in your musical development that any other method.

1. Use a practice journal. Download a copy of the One Minute Music Lesson practice journal here. Use it to track your 15-minutes a day sight reading exercise.

2. Get your materials ready. Find a page of excerptsin the "Music for Sight Singing" book to read. Our examples below are from pages 156-157 of the 7th edition of the book. If you don't have this book here are 10 sites to find free sheet music for sight reading.

3. Stay focused. Focus on one aspect of music reading, either pitch or rhythm until you are comfortable with both.

  • If you need to practice reading the notes, write in the pitches for each note before you play. The more you write in the names of the notes, the faster you will get at reading them. This is a vital step in the learning process that too many teachers discourage their students from doing. Here is a sample of what this would look like:
  • If you need to practice reading rhythm, write in the Eastman counting system above the music before you play the excerpt. Then verbally speak the names of the notes in the rhythm. Then move on to playing the excerpt on your instrument. Here is a sample of what this would look like:

4. Use a timer. Use an online timer or the timer on your cell phone and set it to 15-minutes. By setting a timer you are consciously creating a goal for developing your skills. This is the key to your progress over time. By using the timer you will practice this skill until the timer goes off without think about how long this task will take. Also you will not be focused on how much time is remaining to your sight reading practice thus keeping you goal oriented during the session.

How is your Sight Reading Progressing?

Let me know in the comments below or in our sight reading forum how you're sight reading progress is going and what books and materials you are using.

That's it for today, until next time ...

Practice smart, not hard.

- Leon Harrell

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music - Sight Reading Exercise 1 - Sheet Music Markings

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, I am creating a series of sight reading exercises for you to help you with your sight reading skills and to provide harmonically interesting sight reading materials.

In this first exercise, which you can download here, you should complete the following list of instructions BEFORE you play it or listen to the recording. The link to the recording is available at the bottom of this post.

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music

1. Get your materials ready. Print the example out and get a pencil with an eraser and three different colors of highlighters, preferably a blue, a green and a pink.

When you sight read you need be prepared with these materials so you are actively reading the score while at the same time providing yourself with the necessary information to read the music at your own skill level.

When you sight read music you will inevitably make mistakes. Your goal is to catch each mistake the first time you make it and mark your music accordingly. When you misread a pitch, circle it with the pencil.

Marking your score as you read it the very first time will save you an enormous amount of time through out the process and prevent you from repeating mistakes.

2. Highlight all the accidentals. Accidentals are the sharp, natural and flat symbols printed on your score. The key signature for the piece may include some sharps or flats but we are focusing on the extra accidentals printed through out the music.

In this first exercise the music is in the key of C major, which has no sharps or flats in the key signature itself. However, it is rare that a piece of music would only have the pitches from the key signature throughout the entire piece.

To mark your accidentals use the blue highlighter and highlight any flat symbols, then use the green for any natural symbols and the pink for the sharp symbols. You can see in the previous sentence how highlighting attracts your eyes and creates attention quickly. This is why I use highlighters on the accidentals, they are usually the notes you will miss when you sight read. When I do this I may highlight the note itself or the accidental symbol, it all depends on the amount of space on the page there is to mark the music. Some music is printed smaller and it makes highlighting more difficult. In that case I will highlight the notes directly rather than the accidental symbols.

3. Mark the rhythms that seem difficult. Look over the piece and find any rhythms that you think will be difficult to play. If you find any, use the Eastman Counting System to label the counting above the music now. Watch lessons 17 and 18 on the free video lesson page to learn more about this marking system or get a copy of "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days" which goes into great detail on how to use this counting system.

By marking the difficult rhythms we will save a lot of time and prevent mistakes in our rhythm reading. Again, this helps us to play the piece correctly and not repeat mistakes over and over again.

4. Scan over the whole piece before you play. Anytime you sight read always take the time to look over the whole piece before you play it. Identify a few features of the score such as key signature, time signature and expression markings that describe what type of sounds you should be making. An example of a common expression is dolce, which means sweetly. Expression markings are usually in italics.

Look for changes of key or modulations. This is usually indicated with a thin double bar between measures and a new key signature or the presence of more accidentals than in other parts of the music.

5. Read the music in your head first. Finally, before you play the piece look at the music and imagine performing it just in your head. Imagine the rhythms and sounds of the notes. You will probably not be albe to imagine the pitches correctly yet, but over time you can certainly build this skill up with ear training. For now just imagine the contour of the musical lines, or the basic high-ness or low-ness of the notes.

Read though the whole piece this way one time in a steady tempo using a metronome. Try to stay focused and move along in the music the same way you would as if you where playing it. This step is training you to read the score without involving any of the technical difficulties of playing your instrument. This is often called score reading, and it is a vital skill for any musician especially ensemble leaders like conductors.

Compare your work to the recording

After you have completed this exercise and gone through all the steps practice the piece until you feel as though you have played it correctly. Once you are finished go to the One Minute Music Lesson forums to listen to the recording to see how close you are to reading it correctly.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of the exercise. Was it too difficult? Was it too easy? Did you like the music? If you have questions or comments leave them in the comment section below or over in the forum.

Until next time,

Practice smart, not hard.

-Leon Harrell

Top 10 Facts About Learning How to Sight Read Music Notes and Rhythms

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans,

Learning how to sight read music can be a very mystifying process for the beginning or amateur musician. But there are 10 facts about about learning how to sight read music notes and rhythms that you must know in order to develop your sight reading skills.

It took me over 20 years to learn an effecient system of sight reading because, in truth, most teachers do not know how to teach this aspect of music properly. Many teachers can teach you how to read music on a basic level and even how to play complicated pieces, but usually this is done through a tremendous amount of repetition and reliance on listening to recordings or playing standard pieces from the literature that your teacher learned many years ago.

If you are learning how to sight read music on your own I recommend that you adjust your sight reading habits to incorporate the 10 facts below. I guarantee you will experience a major shift in your sight reading ability and mindset.

1. You must maintain the motivation to improve your sight-reading skills.

In order to get better at sight reading you need to stay motivated to practice the skill. If you need a little motivation begin by reading my article on finding your inner motivation to grow as a musician.

2. You will need good quality sight reading practice materials.

To really sight read you need a lot of fresh music materials to read. There are many places you can get music for sight reading. One of my favorites is a tool called PianoMarvel. This program has thousands of  interactive sight reading exercises and tons of real music repertoire pieces. You can read more about this program on my in-depth review of Piano Marvel, as well as get a 20% discount code.

Also, another quality tool in your sight reading arsenal should include great sheet music. Here is a list of my favorite top 10 free sheet music websites. Also you can find just about any piece at SheetMusicPlus in their catalog of over 800,000+ titles.

3. You must have a frequent practice schedule to improve your sight reading ability.

To get better at sight reading you will need to practice the skill frequently. A great way to do this is to keep a practice journal. To start a practice journal download a free copy of my practice journal template and use it daily.

4. You must make markings on your sheet music BEFORE you sight read.

Sight reading does not all have to be in-your-head. Use a pencil to make markings that will help you as you read through the sheet music. Also using highlighters or colored pencils is a great way to mark your music for visual clarity. When I sight read I mark all the accidentals (sharps, flats and naturals) before I ever play a single note. This marking technique is an invaluable lesson I have learned over the years. I teach this score marking method and many more in my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days".

5. You must practice sight reading slowly.

Practicing almost any skill on an instrument works better if you do it slowly. When you practice piano you begin playing with both hands slowly. When you begin playing guitar you learn to place the fingers on the fret board to form chords slowly. Sight reading slowly will lead to fast progress.

When practicing sight reading you want to read the music at a very slow tempo while also being very steady. This will require a metronome. Do not trust your mind's inner time-keeping when sight reading. I suggest you should practice sight reading around four times slower than a piece should be performed at tempo.

6. You must learn and memorize the note locations on the staff.

If you have not learned the locations of the notes on the treble and bass clef by memory you must do this to get better at sight reading. I have developed two exercises that will help with this task. Download the treble clef exercise here and the bass clef exercise here.

7. You must learn how to count rhythm properly and accurately.

Rhythm is the main culprit in most student's sight reading problems. I recommend all my students learn how to count rhythms properly by learning and using the Eastman counting system. I have two free videos on this counting system, one for simple meter and one for compound meter.

8. You need to understand at least some basic music theory concepts.

To sight read more easily you will need to understand scales and chords. These two fundamental music theory concepts exist in almost all music. You can learn beginning music theory online with my free video lesson series here or take a look at my top 10 free music theory websites.

9. Learning sight-singing will drastically improve your sight reading ability.

What is sight-singing? Sight-singing is a vital part of ear training. Sight singing is the ability to see printed music and sing it without any help from an instrument.

This crucial skill will take time to develop, but once you do, you will be able to sight read much more easily because you will be able to see the structure of the music, not just the notes on the page.

A two great tools for beginning to learn how to sight sing are the ear training tools at and the Ear Master program (Read my review of Ear Master here).

10. You must strive for efficiency in making progress.

My motto for the One Minute Music lesson is Practice smart, not hard.

This is my philosophy in teaching music. I feel the same way about sight reading. Practice smart by using these tips to save time and maximize the effectiveness of your practice. Don't practice hard! Practice that does not include mentally engaging activities such as journaling, marking music and incorporating music theory knowledge is not as productive as a practice regimen that does.

Get started improving your sight reading today

Get motivated to practice sight reading today: Try a free 30-day trial of the famous PianoMarvel software or join in the discussion in the Sight Reading Discussion Forum to find inspiration and more tips to help you in your sight reading journey.

That's it for today, Until next time ...

Practice Smart, Not Hard.

- Leon Harrell

Bass Clef Sight-Reading Exercise Worksheet

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE EXERCISE (Want even more free bass clef sight-reading exercises? Try PianoMarvel free for 30-days. You'll improve your music reading skills immediately)

Bass Clef Sight Reading Exercise Worksheet
Bass Clef Sight Reading Exercise Worksheet

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans,

Continuing my series of exercises and worksheets on sight-reading based on my book How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days, this week we have a bass clef exercise worksheet to help build your skills in the lower register.

In this exercise you will practice the notes of the bass clef. The exercise is designed to get you to read the notes as well as introduce the intervals of 2nds and 3rds. If you do not know the notes of the bass clef watch Lesson 3 - Bass Clef and then come back.

The example in this exercise is in the mode of A aeolian, a musical mode also known as a natural minor scale.

Here are the instructions:

In this exercise you will work through five different levels of sight-reading ability. Start by clicking here to download this exercise as a PDF. You may wish to print four copies of the music sheet for the exercise. As you play the exercise remember to take the repeat at the end. The exercise ends on the whole note in the last measure.

Things to keep in my as you read and play through the exercise:

  • Play at a steady tempo. Regardless of how fast you are able to play the exercise, steadiness of tempo is the most important aspect of sight-reading.
  • Use a metronome as you play. If you do not have one use an online metronome listed on the resources page at:
  • Tap your foot in Levels 1 and 2. However, do not tap your foot in Levels 3 through 5. Also be aware if your body is pulsing with the beat. Are you nodding your head? Try to remain still in your body movements beyond Level 2.
  • Begin with Level 1. Work your way trough each level one at a time.
  • If you have any questions or experience difficulty email then directly to Leon Harrell at

Level 1: Write in all the letter names of the notes with a pencil. Play the exercise on your instrument at a tempo of quarter note equals 60.

Level 2: Write in only the letter names of the first note in each measure. Play the exercise on your instrument at a tempo of quarter note equals 60.

Level 3: Write in only the letter names of the first note in each line, or system of the music. Play the exercise on your instrument at a tempo of quarter note equals 70.

Level 4: Don’t write in any letter names. Read ahead by one note as you play the music. Play the exercise on your instrument at a tempo of quarter note equals 70.

Level 5: Don’t write in any letter names. Read ahead by one measure as you play the music. Play the exercise on your instrument at a tempo of quarter note equals 80.

If you enjoyed this type of blog post, please let me know in the comments below. I will continue to create more exercises like this one if it seems like many of you enjoy them.

Finally, if you want to improve your music reading ability with a structured method check out my book How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days

Thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Leon Harrell